Iraqi president encourages early elections to end crisis

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Snap elections, less than a year after the last polls, have been a key demand of Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose supporters have battled state security forces in violence that began on Monday.

“The holding of new early elections in accordance with a national consensus represents a way out of the stifling crisis,” Saleh said in a speech.

“It guarantees political and social stability and responds to the aspirations of the Iraqi people.”

Saleh spoke hours after Sadr’s supporters withdrew from Baghdad’s Green Zone after nearly 24 hours of clashes pitting them against the army and Shia factions backed by neighboring Iran.

Thirty Sadr supporters were shot dead and at least 570 others were injured after fighting which began on Monday when

Sadr loyalists stormed the government palace after their leader announced he was quitting politics.

Sadr and his supporters have launched calls for the dissolution of parliament and new parliamentary elections after months of political paralysis.

Under the constitution, parliament can only be dissolved by an absolute majority vote of the chamber, at the request of one-third of the deputies or of the prime minister with the approval of the president.

Sadr’s bloc emerged from last October’s elections as the largest in the legislature, with 73 seats, but nowhere near a majority.

Since then, the country has been plunged into a political stalemate due to a disagreement between Shia factions over the formation of a coalition.

In June, its lawmakers resigned in a bid to break the deadlock.

Sadr’s supporters had been staging a sit-in outside the Iraqi parliament for weeks, after storming inside the legislature on July 30.

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